Parliament attack victim’s families boycott official function (Roundup)

December 13th, 2008 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 13(IANS) The families of the 2001 parliament attack victims Saturday boycotted the official function, where only 15 parliamentarians had gathered, and held a separate function at the India Gate war memorial to pay tribute to those killed when terrorists stormed the complex seven years ago. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi Saturday paid floral tributes to the martyrs at a sombre event in the parliament premises.

The prime minister and others placed flowers near a plaque erected in memory of those killed in the attack that almost sparked an India-Pakistan war. Also present were the widow and son of Ghanshyam Singh of the Delhi Police, one of the security personnel killed that day.

Nine people - a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper, five Delhi Police personnel, one parliament watch and ward staffer, a gardener and a security official of the Rajya Sabha - were killed when terrorists attacked the parliament complex Dec 13, 2001.

The five attackers, who India says came from Pakistan, were killed. A cameraman of a news organisation was also killed.

However, the victim’s families boycotted the official event and held a separate function at the India Gate war memorial. They demanded that attack mastermind Mohammad Afzal Guru, who is in on death row, be hanged.

Along with the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF), the families of the victims first paid tributes at the India Gate Saturday morning and then observed two minutes of silence.

A large crowd was present at the India Gate, it being a Saturday. The crowd also sympathized with the families and demanded that Afzal’s death sentence should be carried out as soon as possible.

“Till Afzal is not hanged we will not go to the parliament. Two days ago in parliament, the politicians said they are united against terror. But no one talked about hanging Afzal,” said AIATF chief M.S. Bitta.

The family members of the security personnel killed in the parliament attack had returned the gallantry medals awarded posthumously to the President’s House in 2006, saying they would take them back only after Afzal is hanged.

“Only after Afzal is hanged will the families take the medals. Till then, the medals should be kept at the National Museum, so that the people of the country get to know about the insult of the martyrs,” Bitta added.

“The government is not hanging the terrorist in their custody. If he is not hanged today, someone will secure his release,” he said.

The families of Central Public Works Department gardener Deshraj and the cameraperson of Asian News International Vikram Bisht, who were killed in the attack, have not received any compensation as yet.

Bitta said the victims had never demanded of any compensation, the politicians themselves had announced it.

“I just want a simple job so that I can raise my children,” said Sunita Devi, wife of Vikram Bisht, in a choked voice.

The victims’s families said they were hurt at the way the government had insulted the martyrdom of their loved ones.

“Our only demand is that Afzal be hanged. We will not return to parliament till that is done. I don’t understand why the government is trying to bring more terrorists from Pakistan. They should first hang those languishing in our jails,” said Sardar Singh, father of slain Delhi Police head constable Om Prakash.

The families also demanded that the government erect a memorial for the martyrs of the parliament attack in Delhi so that people can come and pay their tributes.

The AIATF said that they have repeatedly sought an appointment with President Pratibha Patil to submit a memorandum demanding Afzal’s hanging, but have not heard anything from her office as yet.

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